We're approach one of the year's biggest birthdays but we figured we'd throw a shout-out to Jordin Sparks for her 25th birthday. The pop star got out to a hot start at the beginning of her career, becoming the first American Idol winner to land her first four singles in the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100. Things have slowed down a little since then but hopefully she'll be back on top soon enough. Here are five of our favorite tracks from the performer:
05) "I Am Woman" (2011)
The only complaint we ever hear about this track is that it's almost formulaic in the way it borrows from Beyoncé...and those critics are correct. It'll do however—if you have to borrow from a pop star, might as well start at the top. Sparks gives a shout out to all of the ladies on the dance floor but even the guys get drawn in by the fast-and-heavy drum line rhythm approach (a la Bey's "Lose My Breath"). This approach to pop hasn't exactly paid off for Sparks like her R&B work has (based on 2014's Right Here, Right Now and its single "It Ain't You") but there's room to grow.
04) "I (Who Have Nothing)" (2007)
American Idol doesn't necessarily have to worry about selling many singles for the songs that competitors perform throughout the season. Nor would anyone helping Sparks put together a modern pop album expect to hear anything such as "I (Who Have Nothing)" on it, as baroque pop hasn't been a mainstream staple since...well, when Ben E. King first recorded the song during 1963. This track was far from the highest placer on the Hot 100 for Sparks but it's nice to hear something a step away from the bombast present in nearly all pop music nowadays.
03) "Tattoo" (2007)
Sparks has an incredible set of pipes...that's how she won American Idol. "Tattoo," one of her first singles following her victory, proves that she can handle the low-key stuff as well as well as rafter-raising vocals. Producer Stargate must've heard our complaints about pop bombast seven years ago somehow and balanced the lingering piano chords with a drum machine beat to keep both parents and the kinds interested. It's also easy to appreciate this track for taking a more subtle approach to moving on...without all the name-calling and finger-pointing present in similar songs of this era.
02) "No Air" (2008)
Oh man, the time when we could listen to Chris Brown singing beautiful R&B ballads and not feel slightly guilty about it. Sparks and Brown make a pair-par-excellence for a track such as "No Air," with the headliner using those aforementioned pipes while Brown compliments her with his smooth-as-silk delivery. This would go on to be Sparks' highest-charting single to date, reaching its peak of no. 3 on the Hot 100 during 2008 (although it did land at no. 1 in Australia). No word on whether "no air" is a reference to an emotional state of being or how big of a breath the vocalists needed to take when they were done recording this track.
01) "Battlefield" (2009)
If you want one simple explanation for why "Battlefield" should be held as Sparks' top single versus "No Air," she does this one all by herself. The setup is perfect for the power ballad format that the vocalist excels best in: The verses start out slow, subtle while introducing the ultimate themes. The pre-chorus accelerates the intensity of her voice and then she hits full stride during the proclamation of the title phrase. We could care less about Ryan Tedder's production and beat-work here...Sparks grabs the reins and takes control.